Posted on Leave a comment

Discernment

If you could ask for anything – yes, anything – what would it be?

Imagine if God appeared to you saying that he will give you whatever you ask. Above all else, what one thing do you want?

That’s what happened to Solomon after he became King of Israel at about 20 years old. God came to him in a dream at a place of worship, saying, “Ask for whatever you want me to give to you” (1 Kings 3:4-14).

Kings commonly asked for long life, or wealth, or the death of their enemies (v.11). Kings and Queens and national leaders embody their people, representing their hopes, wishes and desires. Everyone wants happiness, health and long life, riches, peace and security with no enemies. It’s the equivalent of the ‘Health & Wealth’ gospel – the quest for power, miracles, prosperity… the good life!    

Not Solomon. What he wanted most was “a discerning heart” (1 Kings 3:9). In Hebrew, literally “a hearing heart”. Able to listen deeply and patiently to all sides of an issue. Including God. Hearing God’s whispers – God’s word and will in each situation. The ability to listen, evaluate, and know what is right and wrong. To distinguish between good and evil.

God responded, “I will give you a wise and discerning heart” (1 Kings 3:12). The Hebrew lev hakam wenabon is “a heart of wise discernment” – the wisdom to discern truth from untruth.

This is, arguably, the greatest need in our postmodern world of post-truth, where lies and fake news are the order of the day. Where lying presidents lead the way. “Truth is nowhere to be found… truth has stumbled in the public square, honesty cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:14-15). The battle for truth, for reliable and true knowledge of reality.

The crisis in our world is (due to) the failure of leadership, which, in turn, is the failure of character. The failure of ethics and truth in leaders, and in people in general. The way of the leader is the way of the people. We live with narcissist, power-hungry, nationalistic leaders.

We don’t know what truth is anymore. How do we know what is true? What can we trust as reliable knowledge of reality? More so, WHO can we trust for truth? WHO is true?

Accurate knowledge of reality is not enough. We need wisdom. Wisdom is the skilful application of knowledge to make the correct decisions in each situation, by discerning good from evil, right from wrong, for the wellbeing of all concerned. The Truth sets us free (John 8:31-32).

What Solomon asked and received was the character quality most associated with good godly kings, as in Isaiah 11:1-5. This text was prophetic of the Messiah-King, Jesus, who lived by God’s “Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and power… to judge with righteousness… with justice he will give decisions for the poor and needy…”

Such wise discernment is both given and acquired. Discerning wisdom is both gift and training. Solomon says we acquire it by treasuring God’s Word within us, by inclining our ear to God’s Wisdom, by literally crying aloud for insight and discernment, seeking her as for hidden treasures – because God gives wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:1-9).

Do you cry out for discernment and wisdom? How much do you want it?

Hebrews 5:14 says that the spiritually mature in God are those who have trained their faculties, by practice, to distinguish good from evil. How mature are you?

Solomon’s purpose in asking for wise discernment was to lead and govern his people well (1 Kings 3:9). It was not for his own sake, for his ego, popularity, or success. It was for the people’s wellbeing and prosperity.

And his posture was not that of entitlement or presumption because he was king. He identified himself before God as “your servant” (1 Kings 3:7-8). He saw himself as God’s servant to serve the people by listening to God in the silence of his heart, as he listened to the people in their need, challenges, issues, etc. That is how he discerned what was really happening, where truth lay, what was good and right – the will of God in each situation.  

Finally, in asking for discernment and wisdom, God also gave Solomon long life, wealth, and the defeat of his enemies. As Jesus told his followers, “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and all the other things you need will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Posted on 8 Comments

Forming (in) Community: Practicing Servant Gifts (2)

To listen to the audio teaching of these notes, click on this link
http://followingjesus.org.za/sermons/being-the-beloved-servant-gifts-2-part-29/

Recap on Servant Gifts (1): I made three basic points regarding the practice of servant gifts to form – and be formed in – Jesus’ community: 1) The local church is Christ’s Body, that operates organically by spiritual gifts (charisma, “enabling graces”) given through each member. 2) The right motivation (heart) and context (attitude) for the operation of the gifts is servanthood. The gifts are service (“ministry”) in Jesus’ name to one another; thus we speak of servant gifts. 3) The model of servanthood is Jesus, the Servant of YHWH who, in his service, suffers our sin and brokenness in love, to cleanse, enfold and heal us into his life and community (as he dramatically enacted in John 13).

Peter summarises this well: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet 4:10). God’s graces fall into two categories: supernatural gifts (by direct Spirit inspiration) and natural talents (by birth and training). Both are spiritual gifts because they are all God-given. The challenge is: are we faithful stewards of God’s multiple enabling graces, that come through each other in all their rich diverse forms, to heal and grow us to maturity in Christ?

Paul on Servant Gifts in the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:1-31)

Paul gives specific teaching on spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 12 (“manifestation gifts”, written in 54 AD), Rom 12:1-8 (“motivational gifts”, in 57 AD), and Eph 4:7-12 (“ministry-gifts”, in 60 AD). I examine each of these passages in that order to reflect Paul’s developing thinking.

The context of 1 Cor 12 is Paul’s teaching on public worship services – when the church gathers together (see 11:33, 14:26) – from chapter 10 to 14. It’s essentially about the local Body of Christ functioning organically in relational harmony through spiritual gifts. Continue reading Forming (in) Community: Practicing Servant Gifts (2)